I generally steer away from reading writers whose books have won major awards. It isn’t because the writers aren’t terrific or their books are no good. It has nothing to do with them. It has to do with me. When I was younger, someone recommended that I pick up Salman Rusdhie. He had won every award on the planet and then some with his work. I tried to read his books. I could never understand them. I felt really stupid and I feel ashamed even now to admit that I could not understand them. I was lost in his words. But he is a great writer.. just not one for me. I have had similar issues with The Fountain Head. I could not get my head around that book.
It seems to be that good books, the ones that resonate with you, come into your life without notice and then make such a home in your heart that you wonder how you had survived so far without them. I was at a small thrift store near my house last week, wandering the aisles when I happened upon a hardcover just lying on the side of an old table. “Miss Dennis School of Writing” (http://www.amazon.com/Miss-Dennis-School-Writing-Lessons/dp/0963124625/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1287502814&sr=8-1) by Alice Steinbach. I stared at the book, feeling an odd pull to pick it up. But then I saw the words “Pulitzer Prize winning writer” and I walked away. I knew if the writer had won the Pulitzer, I was going to be way to stupid to read and understand her. For some reason, my three-year-old, who was with me at the time, picked up the book and gave it to me. “Mama, for you!” I looked at his face and then the book. It felt right in my hand. But in my head, it felt like it did not belong with me.
I struggled for a bit but then decided it was only a dollar and if I did not understand it, I could always bring it back to the store.
It is the best money I have ever spent in my life (with the exception of my Susan Orlean collection).
Alice Steinbach writes with grace I have never rarely seen before. Whether she is contemplating being the mother of two boys, or wondering how we age or thinking about fashion. Her words are full of emotion about everyday things. She doesn’t do exotic (thank God) but allows us nestle in the universal truth about life and how it’s magic lies in the mundane and seemingly simple things and not in the miracles we all seem to crave.
I hear she lives in Baltimore. So here, with much admiration, I want to make this offer: Please Ms. Steinbach.. I hope someday you will read this post and you will allow me to cook a meal for you. You have touched my heart and changed my life with your words. You have inspired me to be true to who I am and to write what I really believe. You have made a difference in my life.
Oh, and that Pulitzer… never again will I allow that to scare me away from discovering writing and writers to fall in love with.
To all my readers, I ask you.. has a writer ever changed your life? Do share.. I would love to learn more. There is no contest, no giveaway associated with this.. Just my hope that you will share your love with me.